Every person is unique. Throughout your life, you meet thousands of people and it’s quite impossible to find two people who are exactly alike. Even identical twins who share their DNA aren’t completely indistinguishable. Its quite simple to notice these differences as they age or after a significant amount of time spent with them. So apart from being identical twins is there any other way that lets two people be identical?

Cloning has been a subject of research for many years now and has progressed significantly. It is the process of producing genetically identical individuals of an organism either naturally or artificially. Although clones have the same DNA, they may not look the same or behave in the same manner due to the random mutations which occur in their DNA during their development.

While clones can be produced naturally by organisms that undergo asexual reproduction (splitting), artificial clones can be produced in three ways. Gene cloning, also called DNA cloning, is the process of making copies of DNA segments or individual genes. Therapeutic cloning creates embryonic stem cells that are genetically identical to the donor, that are used to replace or repair damaged tissues. Reproductive cloning, the most controversial type, creates copies of whole organisms or animals. In reproductive cloning, the nuclear DNA of an adult cell is transferred into an egg cell. This is called somatic cell nuclear transfer. The egg is subsequently allowed to develop into an embryo and is implanted into the womb of an animal surrogate, which finally leads on to the formation of the clone.

Dolly the sheep, the first clone animal produced was also produced through somatic cell nuclear transfer(SCNT). Three sheep contributed in the reproduction of Dolly. One sheep provided the egg, a second provided the DNA from the mammary gland, and a third served as a surrogate to carry Dolly. Even though Dolly died of lung cancer in 6.5 years, her death wasn’t attributed to the fact that she was a clone as the disease was very common in sheep.

Over the years, many benefits of cloning have come to the forefront. Apart from the obvious contributions in the field of medicine, cloning can also be used to save endangered species. It can be used to reproduce a child for an infertile couple and even in organ replacements. It can also be used for altering unwanted genes and customization which might prove to be both helpful and scary.

Before being able to enjoy a huge number of benefits however, it’s important for the technique to be perfected and advanced. For example, to be able to clone endangered species, finding enough cells as well as a suitable source of recipient egg cells and surrogate mothers is a considerable challenge. Another issue is that cells and embryos from different species require highly specific conditions to successfully grow in the lab and it’s not exactly easy to achieve each of these specifications.

What is the future of cloning? Quite a few animals such as pigs, cats and dogs have been cloned since Dolly. However, it seems unlikely that cloning by techniques like SCNT will play a major role in future scientific research unless the success rate is dramatically improved. Given the numerous advantages, it will be amazing if we could become advanced enough to achieve them. Cloning humans is illegal as of now and in all honesty, the decision is justified. However, it is not easy to predict what will happen in the field as the years fly. Before 1997, most scientists would have claimed that Dolly could never be created and here we are now.

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